Vauxhall Carlton Mark II

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Vauxhall Carlton Mark 2 GSi 3000

1986 - 1994
United Kingdom
6 cyl. Straight Six
3.0 Litre
5 spd man.
Top Speed:
134 mph
Number Built:
1 star
Vauxhall Carlton Mark 2 GSi 3000
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1

Advanced Chassis Technology

Vauxhall's rear-drive Carlton was, apart from badging, identical to the Opel Omega. Both cars had, for the time, just about the slipperiest shape in the volume family sedan business (the least-cluttered model had a claimed Cd of 0.28). The Carlton featured an all-independent 'ACT' (advanced chassis technology) rear suspension (the earlier Carlton's had live rear axles) which utilised coil springs and semi trailing arms with a compound angle arrangement that introduces a small degree of helpful rear-wheel steer whenever the effect can be beneficial to the driver.

In other-words, the suspension reacted automatically to stabilise handling. Vauxhall claimed the layout dramatically improved handling, cornering, and stability under all road conditions, and significantly reduced tyre wear. Front suspension was by MacPherson coil struts, incorporating a then new combination of negative scrub radius geometry and compliance steer, which, claimed Vauxhall, ensured a self-stabilising effect of outside forces to improve stability under uneven braking forces. It meant the front suspension reduced the effect of outside forces to improve stability under all conditions, particularly when braking on patchy surfaces, even if one side of the car was on ice, and the other on dry tarmac.

A New Range of Engines

The range of engines included three four cylinder petrol units from a 1.8 litre 67kW (carburettor) model to a two litre injected 91kW unit. There was also an injected 1.8 litre 86kW engine as well as an improved 2.3 litre 55kW diesel. The best was the, by then ageing, 2969cc inline six cylinder 130kW injected unit (developed from the Senator sedan and Monza Coupe engine) which, for reasons known only to GM, utilised "cam-in-head" valve operation. It incorporated the familiar and strange rocker layout, but the single camshaft was mounted on top of the cylinder-head, and we can only assume that Toyota would have called it an overhead camshaft engine.

The uprated three litre six was used to power the Carlton GSi 3000, introduced in March 1987 at the Geneva Show, and thus powered the top-of-the-range Carlton was good for around 225km/h. Later models offered a 24-valve version of the 3 litre six, producing much more power and torque. As well, Vauxhall used the "Dual-Ram" intake manifold, which let the car breathe as two separate three-cylinder engines below 4,000 rpm, but changes the intake manifold profile at 4000 rpm to increase the runner length, thus increasing total engine output.

All of the Carlton engines featured Bosch management systems, and all could be quickly set for 91 or 97 octane petrol by turning an under-bonnet switch. Silencers had a stainless steel layer to promote long-life. There was also a brand new five speed manual gearbox for the range, much attention having been paid during design and manufacture to quiet running, and smoother gear changing. The optional automatic transmission (from the Senator sedan) was a four speed GM unit with overdrive top and lock up torque converter for high performance and minimum fuel consumption.

The four cylinder manual petrol models had a 3.7:1 final-drive ratio providing 36.69 km/h/1000rpm in fifth, the three litre GSi having the identical axle ratio, but 15 inch wheels (compared to 14 inch on four cylinder petrol models) which contributed to 37.49km/h/100rpm in top. The 2.3D (diesel) manual had a 3.45:1 axle and a fifth gear/1000rpm speed of 39.42km/h. Automatic transmission was unobtainable with the GSi 3000, but the four cylinder automatic petrol Carlton's all ran at 44.73km/h/1000rpm in fourth (with the same 3.7:1 axle). The diesel automatic was up to 47.95km/h/1000rpm using the identical 3.45:1 final-drive to the manual model.

The new Carlton Estate was claimed to set fresh standards in load carrying capacity with up to 1.849cu. metres of space, and a payload of more than 567kg. The Carlton sedans were four door notchbacks but the rear seats folded in the manner of a hatchback, giving the cars above average carrying capacity. Vauxhall claimed the Carlton to be the world's first to have height-adjustable seatbelts for both front and rear occupants. Unlike its arch-rival the Ford Motor Company, Vauxhall Motors made ABS braking (four discs) an optional extra on all Carlton's except the ultra high performance GSi 3000 which was fitted with them as standard.

The Lotus Carlton

In 1990, Vauxhall launched a high performance 377 bhp (281 kW) Lotus Carlton in collaboration with Lotus Cars. (An Opel version was also produced as the Lotus Omega.) It was built with a 3615 cc six-cylinder twin-turbo engine (designated C36GET) capable of over 176 mph (283 km/h), making it officially (for the time) the fastest full four seater that had ever been made. It cost £48,000 - well over double the price of a standard Carlton. As a result, Vauxhall's original plans to sell about 1,000 in the UK ended in 440 UK cars being sold. For those with less money there was the 3000GSi 24v, with a top speed of 146 mph (235 km/h).

In June 1992 two teams from Horley Round Table, Surrey, UK, set a Guinness World Record time of 77 hours 34 minutes, driving a total 6,700 km across the then 12 EC countries in two Vauxhall Carlton 24V 3000 GSi's (J870 FFM and J751 DYC). The Carltons were provided by Vauxhall Motors and the record attempt was also supported by Mobil Oil and the Royal Automobile Club.
Vauxhall Carlton Estate
Vauxhall Carlton Estate

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